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Limited evidence that visual lateralization is associated with fitness in rutting male fallow deer

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Domhnall Jennings


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Under certain models of animal competition, individuals are expected to gather information about opponent quality in order to determine whether they should fight or withdraw. However, the ability to process complex information differs between individuals and across brain hemispheres; a feature of vertebrate cognition known as lateralization that is not anticipated by contest models. I investigated the relationship between aggressive behaviour and mating success during the fallow deer rut and a measure of lateralization derived from eye preference during parallel walking. Results show that there was no relationship between the tendency to escalate to fighting or predictability in the tendency to engage in fighting and lateralization. Conversely, there was a quadratic relationship between third-party intervention behaviour and lateralization: the greater the tendency to intervene in ongoing fights the lower the degree of lateralization. However, individuals that showed lateralization for right-eye use were least likely to be targeted by the intervening male; thus lateralization is beneficial in this context because targeted males are highly likely to lose this subsequent encounter. The relationship between lateralization and mating success was also nonlinear: males that showed little evidence for an eye bias during lateral displays had the greatest mating success. Taken together, individuals that show lateralization benefit from avoiding being targeted following third-party intervention; conversely, individuals that showed little evidence for lateralization actively intervened during ongoing fights and had higher mating success. These results suggest that, while lateralization does appear to confer a fitness advantage on individuals, these are not as extensive as anticipated.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jennings DJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Animal Behaviour

Year: 2014

Volume: 92

Pages: 85-91

Print publication date: 07/03/2014

ISSN (print): 0003-3472

ISSN (electronic): 1095-8282

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd.


DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.03.024


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